Google Earth is putting American lives at risk, according to a state assemblyman from El Cajon. He wants to force Google to blur out photos of California buildings that could be terrorism targets.
For Republican Assemblyman Joel Anderson, it's a no-brainer. Terrorists should not be able to use detailed images like those on Google Earth to plan their next attack.
"Hamas has said it used that level of detail to target children's schools in Israel," Anderson said.
Anderson has introduced a bill that would force Google to blur out images of all California government buildings, places of worship, hospitals and schools - an estimated 75,000 buildings statewide.
"We should not be in the business of helping terrorists map their next target. People get that. The only people who don't get that are people who are fascinated more about technology than saving people," Anderson said.
Attorney Jim Dempsey represents the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group that opposes internet censorship. Dempsey says he understands the need for public safety.
"I don't think you can jump from that to some sort of broad-brushed, mandatory government enforced censorship. I just don't see that as a workable solution," he said.
Anderson says his law would only limit a user's ability to zoom in closely on target buildings.
During the 2007 wildfires, news organizations used Google Maps to track the advance of the fire lines. News 8 recently used Google Earth to show the last known location of a missing child.
"This would stop news helicopters from flying over buildings and taking pictures. This would cover a wide range of pretty common pictures and technologies," Dempsey said.
Anderson claims typical commercial users have no need for such high-resolution imagery.
"There's no commercial use for this level of detail except for one. We know the terrorists say they use it," he said.
Opponents worry if the bill passes, Google could eliminate high-resolution imagery for the entire state.
"I think we need to focus on catching and punishing the bad guys and not demonize or blame the technology," Dempsey said.
In a written statement, Google said its mapping images provide useful information that offers a greater understanding of the world.
The bill is expected to go to committee within a month.
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